I’m a firm believer that everyone should try traveling solo at some point in their lives. You may have plenty of friends and family members who make for wonderful travel companions, but traveling alone offers so many extra opportunities for self-discovery, personal growth, and cultural connection.
With common sense and level-headed research, there’s no reason why women can’t travel solo to all corners of the world (many do!); however, I admit that traveling alone can seem intimating, especially as a woman and especially if you haven’t tried it before. Here are a few destinations that I think are perfect for uneasy first-time solo travelers: They’re safe, welcoming, and, most importantly, very cool!
England is easily the best country in the world for a nervous North American traveler to visit. The culture is different enough from home to be exciting, but familiar enough to feel comfortable. My mom grew up in England, and I’ve visited numerous times over the years. I occasionally worry that England might start to become boring for me, but even after repeated trips I find there’s always more to discover.
One of the best parts of traveling alone in England is that many of its most well-known attractions are museums, monuments, and historic buildings, which I think are particularly solo-traveler-friendly. You can linger over interesting exhibits or read descriptive panels without feeling like you might be holding up your non-existent travel companion. Visiting these types of attractions alone is also a great opportunity to grab an audio guide and get completely absorbed into the site’s story.
Full disclosure: I visited Stockholm with my boyfriend; but regardless, I couldn’t help but notice that it ticks all the boxes I look for when it comes to ideal solo travel destinations: Most locals were friendly and spoke some English, plus the city was clean, beautiful, and safe (it was ranked 4 on the 2015 Safe Cities Index). I adored Stockholm, and I wouldn’t hesitate to return to alone to explore more of Sweden.
As an added bonus, Sweden is a bit more undiscovered than many other areas of Europe. I’m sure you know countless people who’ve visited France and Italy, but how many people do you know that have been to Sweden? It’s a fantastic choice if you want to travel to somewhere slightly less mainstream, yet still accessible.
Japan regularly ranks among the world’s safest countries. When I lived in Takayama, I rarely locked my front door when I went out and never locked my car. One of my co-workers once commented that if you ever felt a stranger touch your bag in a crowd, it’d be reasonable to assume they were returning something you had dropped rather than trying to steal your wallet.
Plus, Japan is just one of my favorite places in the entire world. The food is incredible, the transportation system is insanely efficient, and the culture couldn’t get much more different than the West. The language barrier might be a touch daunting for some, particularly if you visit smaller towns where few people speak English, but most locals are willing to work through the communication barrier with you. Japan provides a fantastic introduction to solo travel as well as to Asia as a whole.